Meet the 13 (killer) startups selected for STATION F’s Fighters Program

Can a former prison inmate, a cancer survivor, and low-income profiles build killer startups?

We believe so. And we are proving it.

Today we are launching the STATION F Fighters Program with 13 incredible startups. But these are no ordinary startups.

The Fighters Program, in a nutshell, is part of STATION F’s core mission: to support diversity in innovation and provide support to entrepreneurs who come from underprivileged backgrounds. Fighters may be people who have a difficult personal history, who come from low-income families, who don’t have resources or a network, who are refugees, who come from rural areas, etc. They have one thing in common: they fought to build their own company, despite all the extra difficulties they faced.

Today, these startups will be given access to STATION F’s Founders Program to share resources and work alongside 1000 startups from around the world, for free for an entire year.

Fighters Program: over 200 applications from 27 different countries

The Fighters Program’s applications were launched during STATION F’s Big Fat Launch Party in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Over a 3-month period, we received over 200 applications from 27 different countries. Besides France, most applications came (in order) from the U.S, India, Iran, Algeria, Cyprus, Nigeria, but we also had applications come from Korea, Australia, Albania, Mali, Togo, Japan, Burkina Faso, Ukraine, Pakistan, Brazil.

Among the selected startups, we have entrepreneurs who traveled many kilometers to join STATION F: one of the selected startups is from Tahiti and the other is from Sri Lanka!

Initially we planned to select 10 startups but we ultimately picked 13, which shows the quality of the products and the strength of the founders we met. These 13 companies represent about 50 entrepreneurs that are moving in STATION F today.

How were Fighters picked for the program?

The selection process for the Fighters Program is the same as the Founders Program — we don’t lower the bar. However, when applying online,applicants are asked to tell us what makes them a Fighter. Applicants tell us what they’ve been through and what they’ve learned and accomplished. Some of their stories are incredible.

Entrepreneurs who made the first cut were invited to present their company in front of a jury made of entrepreneurs who share the core philosophy of the Fighters Program:

  • Successful members of the Founders Program like Maade and Saliha, who co-founded Copelican and are StartUpper Academy first Laureates , or Norida, founder of Wivaldy, who comes from the underprivileged suburbs of Paris.
  • Octave Klaba, founder and CEO of OVH, one of France’s most successful tech companies — he started OVH from the ground, living in the suburbs of Lille in a family of immigrants.
  • Jean-Marc Mormeck, a true fighter :) former professional boxer, two-time cruiserweight world champion, Knight of the Legion of Honour et now Interministerial Delegate for Equal Opportunities for Overseas French Citizens
  • Moussa Camara, founder of Les Déterminés, an amazing program that helps people from poor suburbs to launch startups.
  • Salima Maloufi, in charge of the French Tech diversité program
  • Saïd Hammouche, Founder of Mozaïc RH, diversity recruitment specialist
  • and our very own Xavier Niel, #1 supporter of entrepreneurs who fought to build companies.

What we’ve learned when interviewing companies was that there is a difference in the businesses you build, whether you come from a difficult background or you had the chance to do an MBA. Different people build different products, and we need this type of diversity in the startup ecosystem in order to build innovations that impact the whole society.

And now… Meet the Fighters!

Our selected Fighters count some really incredible people: a cancer survivor, a former prison inmate, an entrepreneur who faced over-indebtedness, and several entrepreneurs from developing countries like Tahiti or Sri Lanka. Several startups have also participated in support programs like Les Déterminés, SINGA and Startup Banlieue, Techfugees, PLACE etc.. They are all equally amazing, and here is a short description of who they are:

  • A2JOB : a platform for social and healthcare entities to find emergency candidates more easily. One of the founders is Les Déterminés alumni and has a strong experience as a social worker.
  • BotFactory: a platform to create multilingual conversational assistants for business to deliver an efficient instant messaging service. Dinal Kurukulasooriya, 25, CEO and Januka Samaranayake, 25, COO both come from Sri Lanka and will be in Paris for the first time!
  • Digitall: makes safety locks and car security better. Tally Fofana, a former prison inmate, uses his own experience to develop his startup.
  • GirlsJob: a platform to help with emergency hires (already a 26k community on Facebook). Imène, the CEO, come from Seine Saint Denis and after a series of modest jobs, decided to complete her studies at La Sorbonne, with honors and starting her startup the same year. Imène is a Startup Banlieue and HEC Stand Up alumnae.
  • Konexio empowers and connects refugees with citizens in their local communities by providing access to digital skills and information technology training. Its co-founders are Jean and Binta, two first-generation Americans from immigrant backgrounds. They’re both alumni of SINGA’s business incubation program.
  • LeadBees: a connected device to plug into beehives and protect them from diseases. Kevin, a self-taught engineer, comes all the way from French Polynesia.
  • Les Petits Pots delivers homemade organic baby food right to your door. It was created by Maxime, a U.S immigrant, and Sarah, both come from Paris’ suburbs.
  • Lock’N’Touch: a smart lock for womens’ purses to prevent them from being stolen. Zora, its CEO, is a Startup Banlieue alumnae.
  • Lovel: a dating app that connects people through video challenges based on common interests. Its creators are Malik and François, both originate from the North suburbs of Paris. They won a startup weekend and chose entrepreneurship by vocation.
  • MyShowPass: an unlimited subscription service to concerts and shows, which allows you to go out more and spend less.The startup was started by Tafika Nyirenda, 35, and Yamodo Akondjia, 36, who are from Seine Saint Denis and Essone. They are both volunteer in non-profits.
  • StreetyFood: a platform for personalized contact between companies from the Paris region and the different actors of the street food (Foodtrucks, Scooters, Trators … etc). The founders — Mohammad, Alexis, Hannah and Clément — are the winners of the startup weekend Banlieue, they were able to convince the jury of the potential of their project!
  • Tynkle: connect individuals to repair IT and tech devices (from PCs to smartphones). Alain from a low-income family of Marseille, whom he helped financially. He now owns his own business with Sabri, a friend of his who became his co-founder.
  • Ytizen: a mobile solution for companies and collectivities to assess their physical assets. Jules and Richard come from Amiens and are from Cameroon. One of them fought cancer and managed to build a successful startup nevertheless.

You will hear a lot from the Fighters in the months to come — follow their growth and dig into their inspiring stories on our blog. And if you are a Fighter yourself, apply here to join in 2019!